He felt as though he was fading, felt as though there soon might not be enough of him to contain the beer he was sipping.
On his own, no-one to distract him, he thought about it—the fading—wondered where it had started.
He remembered an afternoon at school; he was six years old and as shy. He remembered how the class had been drawing. Remembered the bell and how they’d moved to put their chairs on the tables and grab their coats, how the teacher had said, ‘Excellent work, class,’ and clapped her hands three times, as she usually did.
And then she did something different, unexpected. She said, ‘I especially liked yours, James.’
It felt as though he’d been pumped full of pride. He beamed.
Then the man remembered another occasion. He remembered standing in a line on the school field, waiting for the captains to pick their teams. He’d been certain it was him being pointed at. He stepped forward but the captain said, ‘Not you.’ He didn’t even use his name. He felt deflated. He felt like gas, like air. Like nothing.
James took another sip of his beer, hoping it wouldn’t slip through his skin. It didn’t and he smiled. And then his thoughts were of when he’d felt his fullest, the most whole: when he was with Katie.
When she’d said his name it was as though it had weight, as though it had mass, colour. Every time she’d said James, he’d felt that bit bigger, stronger. Anchored. That bit more.
They’d split up a while ago. And he’d been lonely, and chose to stay so, chose not to trouble his friends. That’s why he was on his own, here, sipping beer and fading. Katie, he mouthed, and put down his glass. He tried to remember the last time he’d heard anyone saying his name. But he couldn’t. No-one had used his name in months, and he thought: That’s why I’m fading.
When he reached for his drink, he could see the table and a beer mat through his arm. He finished it in two clumsy gulps and rushed to the bar.
‘Amy,’ he said.
‘Same again?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he said, and then, ‘Amy. You know my name, don’t you?’
She nodded as she held the glass under the tap’s nozzle.
‘Say it,’ he said.
‘My name. Please, Amy – it’s really important.’
‘Why?’ she asked, watching the beer fizzing in the glass.
‘Please, Amy. Just say it.’
She took a breath, flicked off the tap and said, ‘Okay. James. It’s James.’
But, then, when she turned to hand him his drink, she couldn’t see him. And in his place was nothing but gas, nothing but air. Nothing.
About the author:
Nik Perring is a writer and workshop leader from the UK. His short stories and very short stories have been published widely in places including Smokelong Quarterly and 3:AM, and he’s the author of a children’s book. Nik blogs here (http://nikperring.blogspot.com) and his website’s here (www.nperring.com).